Background. Several surveys conducted over a period of 40 years have shown that vitamin A deficiency is a serious public health problem in Ethiopia. To address the problem effectively, up-to-date, comprehensive information on the magnitude and distribution of vitamin A deficiency is needed. Objective. A national vitamin A survey was conducted to assess the national and regional prevalence rates of vitamin A deficiency in Ethiopia. Methods. The survey employed a multistage, cluster-sampling approach and a cross-sectional study design. A total of 23,148 children aged 6 to 71 months and their respective mothers were examined for clinical signs and symptoms, and blood samples were collected from 1,200 systematically selected children for serum retinol analysis. Results. The findings indicated national prevalence rates of 1.7% for Bitot's spots among children. 0.8% for night-blindness among children, and 1.8% for night-blindness among mothers. Nationally, 37.7% of children (95% CI, 35.6% to 39.9%) had deficient serum retinol levels, 50.7% had been sick in the previous 15 days, and 22.6% had received vitamin A supplements in the previous 6 months. The prevalence of clinical vitamin A deficiency was significantly (p < .05) higher among children who were male, older, or rural residents. Conclusions. The study confirmed that vitamin A deficiency is a serious public health problem in Ethiopia. Intensification of the ongoing vitamin A supplementation program, postpartum vitamin A supplementation for mothers, intensifying efforts to improve the health status of preschool age children, and promotion of production and consumption of fruits and vegetables are recommended.
Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.
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